Not sure what your weekend looked like. Mine served up a platter of unexpected etiquette reminders.
A gang of young girls sat in a clump; some leaning back against a wall of lockers in a school hallway, others cross-legged facing their pals: all of them appeared relaxed on this Saturday. Outside, parents, students and staff milled about the ground, enjoying the annual homecoming. Nobody predicted a chilly wet day. Still, spirits were high.
Coming inside to get warm for a minute seemed about right.
The Friendly Greek and I walked through the doors down past this circle of girls, only to find them all hunched over their phones.
This is hardly news. Pedestrians on their phones crossing streets, shoppers and diners between bites, subway and bus travellers, drivers of cars rear ending one another.
Somehow this hallway scene stopped me cold. I was here in this very hallway once, sprawled as these young students were, likely whispering some confessional or doing those faux shrieks girls do better than anyone else as we communicate. If these lockers could talk…except here nobody was talking. It was weirdly silent. We kept walking and passed another similar group in the same mode.
Do these kids still talk to one another? Talking means different things to this set. They ‘talk’ via text. I get that…when you’re not together sharing the same space.
What happens when you are?
My radio chirps to me about phubbing this morning. I turn it up as I make coffee, pausing again with a guilty gulp. The act of phubbing or phone snubbing, is impairing our brains by stealing focus and draining our ability to recall. Yup-we know it. More damaging is the erosion phubbing causes to relationships, even when cell phone use is shared, complicit, a group activity as we witnessed this weekend. Yes, I know that checking your phone when someone is talking to you is rude. Yes, I know that checking your phone at the family table or eating out at a restaurant is telling your companion they’re just not interesting enough.
I’m as guilty as anyone.
The same tut-tutting mom observing the texting troupes in the school hallways needs her own reminders about creating phone-free conversation spaces. I know where I’ve found them before.
Do we need phone-free zones? Ban them from car passenger seats and restaurants? Instruct waiters to whisk them away and plop them in the kitchen soup if spotted? Instead of Walmart-style greeters, hire cell phone guards at coffee shops on the look-out for intimate meetings about to crash due to phubbing? Add anti-phubbing lessons to bartending courses and school sex ed curriculums?
Do we install timers, locks, or little shocks to remind ourselves we are the only animals with complex verbal language?
To my daughters and their peers: take back the shared secrets whispered face to face. Have a whole conversation without looking once at your phone. See what happens. Start a movement.
Make a pledge for Thanksgiving weekend.
This is mine:
My attention is all yours. Nothing is as interesting to me as you right this minute.
Not everyone is a talker. Reading is also on the decline. Even when your house is swamped with books. More here.